STRATFORD District Council chiefs are preparing for tough economic times ahead.
A ‘vital’ strategic review outlining the future direction of the council was this week approved by councillors. ‘A District fit for our Future’ report was the culmination of 17 months work which saw the council look at the current way it provided services, and how best to do so going forward in the face of an ‘uncertain financial future’.
Over the last five years the council has reduced costs by around £3million a year, without says the report, significantly impacting upon services residents receive. The council is also looking to make further savings rising to £400,000 annually in its current financial plan.
The review was undertaken to ensure the council can ‘remain financially sustainable’ for the next ten years in the face of further cuts, including all government funding by 2020. The council expects £491,000 in revenue support grant from government in the current year, £111,000 the following year, but then nothing as part of local government finance reforms.
The wide-ranging review looked at everything from how the council could up its income – from the likes of staff hot desking and working from home to allow existing office space to be rented out – to working efficiently with key partners in everything from business to culture.
It also points out the council’s reserves – currently just over £8million – could be used to invest in projects to further increase income.
The review outlined support for priority strategic projects including the Upper Avon Navigation; Studley Enterprise Centre and Wellesbourne Innovation Campus.
Council leader Chris Saint said: “The uncertain financial future, compounded by the lack of any proposed finance bill makes it imperative for the council to seize this opportunity to move towards a position of self sustainability.
“The current level of reserves provides a basis for the council to look realistically at potential investment projects which will enhance its income streams.
“To date the strategic review exercise has identified £108,000 of recurring savings, which were implemented in this year’s budget. Recommendations have identified areas where further reductions in expenditure or additional income could be identified to support the council’s budget. These recommendations will be used to determine the budget proposals for next year.
“A positive outcome from this review is the improved engagement with our stakeholders. We know we need to work smarter with partners to be able to achieve our priorities together for the benefit of our district residents. We are now working more closely with them on a regular basis.”